Winter squash, harvested in the fall, store well through the winter months. In olden times, people would keep them in root cellars, and they would still be good until after Christmas. The most commonly known winter squash are Pumpkin, Butternut, Buttercup and Acorn. Squash is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. It’s also a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid.) Needless to say, if you like squash, it is a healthy food choice.
Winter squash is fairly versatile when it comes to cooking. It works well in soups, casseroles, lasagna, risotto, and pies and dessert breads. Try replacing pumpkin with Buttercup or Butternut squash – maybe the pumpkin pie is actually Butternut squash pie.
Since most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have a root cellar these days, there are other ways to preserve squash. The first, and probably the simplest, is called Curing. Curing is storing winter squash at a warm temperature with good air circulation for 10 to 14 days. Buttercup should last about 13 weeks, and Butternut up to six months after curing, as long as they’re stored at 50º to 55º F with relative humidity of 60 to 70 percent.
Canning is another alternative, although Winter squash must be pressure canned, not water bath canned, because there isn’t enough acid in squash. For instructions on canning squash, click here.
I freeze squash for the winter. The varieties I like are Buttercup and Butternut. They are sweet and buttery, and fairly dense. I slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place them flesh side down in a glass baking dish. I roast them in a 350 degree fahrenheit oven until I can easily poke them with a fork. Once they are cool, I scrape the flesh out into a bowl. I fill quart size freezer bags with 2 cups of squash, push any air out, and seal the bag. The bags are great for the freezer because they lay flat on top of each other.
If you can’t grow squash yourself, there are many places to buy from at this time of year. Roadside stands, apple orchards and farmer’s markets should all have fantastic prices on squash right now. Buying in season can save you lots of money.
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